Sol­sk­jaer tar­gets striker to turn up heat on front three

Man­ager warns Rash­ford, Mar­tial and Greenwood United aim to im­prove goal tally to close gap on cham­pi­ons

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer could tar­get an­other striker to help Manch­ester United close the gap to Liver­pool – and has warned Mar­cus Rash­ford, An­thony Mar­tial and Ma­son Greenwood they must rise to the chal­lenge pro­vided by any new ar­rival or risk be­ing re­placed.

Rash­ford and Mar­tial are each one goal away from hit­ting 20 for the cam­paign – United have not had two play­ers reach that mile­stone in a sin­gle sea­son for nine years – and teenager Greenwood has scored 12 times dur­ing an im­pres­sive break­through year.

But United have man­aged just 48 goals in 31 Premier League games – 22 fewer than cham­pi­ons Liver­pool and 29 shy of Manch­ester City – and Sol­sk­jaer has re­vealed he may look to bring in more fire­power.

The United man­ager has been im­pressed by the way Rash­ford, Mar­tial and Greenwood have han­dled the pres­sure in the wake of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez’s depar­tures for In­ter Mi­lan last sum­mer. But he has told his young at­tack­ing trio not to get com­fort­able.

“You need com­pe­ti­tion for places at Man United. If you think you’ve got a di­vine right to be play­ing ev­ery game and are do­ing so well that we’re not go­ing to look for play­ers to re­place you, you’re in the wrong place,” Sol­sk­jaer said ahead of United’s visit to Brighton tonight. “I’ve been there my­self for so many years as a striker and Teddy Sher­ing­ham comes in, Dwight Yorke comes in, Ruud van Nis­tel­rooy comes in, Wayne Rooney comes in.

“We’ve al­ways got to look at im­prov­ing, and if they don’t im­prove, we might have to look some­where else to get bet­ter, be­cause we have to be bet­ter. We’re too far away from where we need to be and want to be.”

Sol­sk­jaer be­lieves Rash­ford, Mar­tial and Greenwood have only scraped the sur­face of their po­ten­tial and in­sisted they must keep de­vel­op­ing. “They know that I trust them, they know I want the best for them, but they also know I’ve got to make de­ci­sions for the team and the club,” he said.

“They’ve all taken re­spon­si­bil­ity at dif­fer­ent parts of the sea­son and I’m de­lighted with all of them. All three have had a good de­vel­op­ment this sea­son, but they can be so much bet­ter. I’m still wait­ing to see them blos­som be­cause there are parts of their game that they still need to im­prove on.”

United’s 2-1 win over Nor­wich City on Satur­day, which set up an FA Cup semi-fi­nal against Chelsea, ex­tended the club’s un­beaten run to 14 matches. Sol­sk­jaer be­lieves it is pos­si­ble his side could go un­de­feated for the re­main­der of the cam­paign, but warned his play­ers that they face a clutch of sides they have al­ready dropped points to.

“Com­pla­cency kicks you some­where you don’t want to get kicked in foot­ball,” he said. “Brighton, we’ve lost the last two when we’ve gone down there. We’ve got Bournemout­h, who we’ve lost to [this sea­son].

“We’ve got As­ton Villa, who we drew with at home. We’ve got Palace, who we lost to at home. We’ve got West Ham that we’ve lost to. Ev­ery game is one we have a point to prove in.”

Sanchez and Chris Smalling’s loans with In­ter and Roma re­spec­tively are due to be ex­tended un­til the end of the do­mes­tic Ital­ian sea­son on Aug 2. But the like­li­hood is that the pair will then re­turn to Old Traf­ford, rather than stay to com­pete in In­ter and Roma’s Europa League cam­paigns.

With a short turn­around to the start of the 2020-21 cam­paign, United are ea­ger to avoid the risk of ei­ther Sanchez or Smalling suc­cumb­ing to in­juries that could com­pli­cate po­ten­tial trans­fers. Goal­keeper Dean Hen­der­son’s loan at Sh­effield United has been ex­tended un­til the end of the sea­son.

Mean­while, Sol­sk­jaer said that he ex­pected An­gel Gomes to de­part, with the teenage mid­fielder out of con­tract and no new deal agreed.

Ma­son Greenwood Mar­cus Rash­ford

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